A: I’m gonna answer this important and complicated question “no” for four reasons:
- Against all evidence, conservative Republicans have simply refused to budge on the climate issue (see “The Deniers are winning, but only with the GOP“). They would rather destroy the climate than support government-led clean energy solutions. I don’t see that changing for at least several years.
- Moderate Republicans are a vanishing breed — and this election is likely to boot at least half of the remaining ones out of Congress.
- The most important thing is to get as strong a climate bill as is possible in 2009. The Dems are going to have to compromise just to satisfy their own moderates (see “Moderate Senate Dems build ‘Gang of 16″² to influence cap-and-trade bill“). Weakening the bill further to get more than a few token Republicans would gut the whole effort.
- China either embraces serious action sometime relatively soon after we do or they don’t. If they do, then gutting the bill sometime after that would be far less likely. If they don’t, then it is inconceivable the political will to endure strong domestic climate action will last very far into the implementation phase (i.e. very far into the phase when carbon prices and/or regulations start to bite). Thus, we need to maximize the likelihood that China embraces serious action and that again means we need to make our bill as strong and credible as possible.
But wait, you say. If the bill isn’t bipartisan, won’t the Republicans just gut it once they assume power? That is typically a key political calculation: How much do you gut a bill now to avoid having it gutted in the future? But climate change isn’t like other legislation in part because other key countries either respond to us or they don’t (as noted) and because the climate keeps getting worse and worse.
Undoing or weakening a climate bill couldn’t happen until and unless Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House. If we are going to make super optimistic assumptions whereby Obama wins and gets reelected — and if we aren’t going to make super-optimistic assumptions then we aren’t going to avoid catastrophic global warming ’cause, like, the deck is heavily stacked against us and we’ll need runner runner to make a winning hand — then the earliest that could happen is 2017.
While conservative deniers/inactivists may think nothing much is going to change over the next eight years, in fact, by 2017, it is highly likely that all hell will be breaking loose — literally. Indeed, recent studies in Nature and Science suggest we are probably going to get quite hot quite fast early in the 2010s, and the coming decade is poised to see faster temperature rise than any decade in recorded history (see “Climate Forecast: Hot — and then Very Hot” and “Nature article on ‘cooling’ confuses media, deniers: Next decade may see rapid warming“).
Thus, most likely, future presidents and future congresses will be strengthening any climate bill, much as the nations of the world progressively tightened the restrictions on ozone-depleting substances as more and more countries joined the effort and as the dire nature of the problem became clearer and clearer (see “Lest We Forget Montreal“).
The other wildcard, assuming again that Obama were to win, is that, on the one hand, he is running as a different kind of politician, one who reaches across the aisle to solve major problems facing the nation. But, on the other hand, Obama is running on a strong and comprehensive energy and climate plan (see “Obama’s excellent energy and climate plan“) — a plan that one can hardly imagine more than a tiny number of Republicans embracing (see “Is 450 ppm politically possible? Part 6: What the Boxer-Lieberman-Warner bill debate tells us“).
E&E Daily has a long article today, “Possible Democratic sweep raises stakes for ’09 cap-and-trade debate” (subs. req’d), which makes many points germane to this issue, and I will excerpt it here: